Maria is recognised for her work at Forton Road games area in Gosport

Community Champion Maria Calway-Kennedy from Gosport, left
Community Champion Maria Calway-Kennedy from Gosport, left

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DEDICATED Maria Calway-Kennedy has been recognised with an award for her contribution to sport in Gosport.

A whole host of sporting celebrities heaped praise on Maria, who is the founder and youth worker at Y-Services, at a House of Lords reception.

The event saw Maria recognised as a Community Champion by Barclays Spaces for Sports and the Football Foundation.

Maria’s work at Forton Road Park multiuse games area – through Y-Services, a charity focused on improving the lives of young people – has increased participation and engaged young people and their families in a deprived area which suffered from anti-social behaviour and substance misuse.

Since 2004 Y-Services has received grants of £119,000 which it has put towards the building of the games area.

Before investment from Barclays Spaces for Sports and the Football Foundation, the site was unable to host as many training sessions as it does today.

The funding also renovated a disused building.

Maria said: ‘It’s Y-Services’ aim to build strong community links through projects that focus on engaging local, young, vulnerable people from areas of high deprivation, and their families.

‘We’re committed to creating an inclusive culture, and delivering weekly sessions. The improved Forton Road area has allowed us to do this.’

The reception was hosted by talkSPORT presenter Georgie Bingham and saw former footballer and Football Foundation ambassador Dion Dublin talk about local, quality sports facilities.

Dion was joined by former England boss Graham Taylor, Southampton’s Lawrie McMenemy, ex-Wimbledon, Liverpool and Spurs defender John Scales and talkSPORT presenter Georgie Bingham.

Barclays Spaces for Sports is the largest sports-based corporate social responsibility programme in the UK. It started in 2004 and has helped to develop 204 multi-sports sites.

Paulette Cohen, from Barclays, said: ‘Thanks to the hard work of Maria and hundreds of other people who help run our facilities, more than 200 sites are providing people of all ages and backgrounds with opportunities to build their skills and fulfil their potential.’